FOURTH ANNUAL QAM HOLIDAY TOUR
Cliff Robinson et al
object of this tour (apart from the relative shortening
of life and stature of its members) was:
To retrieve the remaining items of the Sabre deal entered
into last year.
To retrieve Fairey Gannet aircraft and Vampire wings
obtained in a deal negotiated this year.
To investigate other possibilities hinted at.
Gannet is the last available in Australia (only 3 others
still exist). It has suffered major surgery to the rear
fuselage in the past. The most significant thing about
Gannets is their sheer size and weight (16 tonne in
The badly damaged Sabre forward fuselage and the much
better rear fuselage give us the basis with the important
collection of parts which they accompanied for a Sabre
The Vampire wings will go with the single seat fuselage
we acquired last year to add to the de Havilland display.
A myriad of other parts and components has been obtained
for various projects.
team on this occasion: Mike Adams, Dave Bussey, Ed Foster,
Mick Hinsbey, Cliff Robinson and Ken Woodrow. A group of
widely varying calibre - from 7.5 to 16 stone!
AND GROANING IN THE GANNET'S NEST
1 - SAT 25 APRIL:
Ken and Mike depart at 0600 in "Austral the Truck". Mick
and Ed depart at 0630 in Mick's Torana. All meet at Ballina
at 0900 and after refreshments depart at 0940 for Grafton
where they arrived at 1140. The Airtourer was unloaded by
1230 followed by lunch courtesy of Gary and Reiko. This
was carefully planned so that David and Cliff, who departed
Brisbane at the gentlemanly hour of 0815, arrived at Grafton
after the work was completed. Mike and Ken left at 1500
to complete the "horror stretch" of Grafton-Armidale by
1845 to rest for the night in a caravan. The following morning
Ken managed to lock himself and Mike out of the caravan
in the rain, owing to a faulty door lock (he claims). The
others spent the night with Gary and Reiko looking at unsuccessful
RAAF attempts to recover Boston remains from sand.
2 - SUN 26 APRIL:
Ken and Mike left Armidale at 0810 arriving Windsor at 1630.
The other four left Grafton at 0730 arriving Windsor at
1740 and all settled into the en suite mobile home built
for five. This involves Ken and David sleeping at various
levels off the floor. Mike, Mick and Ed in ascending elevation
in three tier bunks and geriatric Cliff on the double bed.
Tea is Irish stew on toast with dessert.
3 - MON 27 APRIL:
Early rising gets us to the Scheyville site by 0830 followed
by Gary and other HARS members. The morning is spent surveying
the site, studying the permutations of the job and getting
many small parts out of the hangar. The occupancy of the
building ran out some time ago and a degree of urgency is
entering into the moving process. (QAM felt totally at home).
Another party has used other buildings and parade areas
for storing Canberra spares. We are glad we don't have his
problems. He estimates 90 semi loads to Bathurst! That afternoon
we begin work on de-screwing the leading edges of the Gannet.
As usual, a few can be moved, the rest will have to be drilled
out. Ominously it begins to rain and continues on into the
night. This poses a real threat. We wanted to work on the
aircraft outside, but worse than this, we have to move it
across 50m of long grassed boggy slope to get it to a parade
ground where it will be possible to load the semi trailers.
We removed the wheels and Gary took them to town and had
them inflated after which they were refitted. The tail section
was moved and this then made room to reposition the Gannet
aimed at the correct angle to exit the building. This will
be an interesting exercise - one door and part of a wall
must come down. As a final for the day, we jack up the nose
and fold the nose leg, leaving the aircraft sitting on a
stack of pallets.
4 - TUE 28 APR:
Dawn breaks with the sound of continuous rain on the roof
and a dull day. The mood inside is just as gloomy as today
was scheduled to move the fuselage section to the parade
ground for dismantling. Clearly this would not be possible
so it is decided to continue work on the rear fuselage section
and the wing leading edges inside the hangar. The countersunk
screws on the leading edges prove impossible to unscrew
so the generator is fired up with the screws submitting
to various drills. Spirits are lifted when sunshine is noticed
after lunch. The ground over which the aircraft is to be
towed by Austral is surveyed and the decision is made that
the move will be attempted tomorrow.
5 - WEDNESDAY 29 APRIL:
An early start is made as today will be a long one. First
the right hand door of the hangar is lifted by the crane
on Austral and removed. The door frame pillar is then unbolted
and removed on the tray of the truck. Austral is then positioned
under the nose of the aircraft and the Gannet is secured
with chains, ropes, load lock ratchets and the crane. After
morning smoko, all is ready for "the tow". Austral is fired
up, first gear engaged and the contraption moves forward
about three metres only to find that we are slightly out
on the approach angle and we won't fit through the door
opening. After dragging the aircraft sideways on the tray,
another three metres progress is made until more surgery
on the door opening is required to clear the canopy and
the port wing stub. After this, the aircraft clears the
opening by 10mm and Austral delivers maximum power to negotiate
the soft ground. Following this it is easy going on the
hard surface of the parade ground. (How can we shift this
parade ground to Caloundra? It would be useful). After lunch
the door is refitted to the building and the wall repaired.
There is enough time in the day to shift three wing sections
to the parade ground.
6 - THU 30 APR:
Standard work days here start with Woodrow beginning to
snort and mumble at about 0400, breakfast at 0600, on site
at 0700. Finish is dark at 1730 - 10.5 hours! Union rules?
Today starts with a move of the last wing section to the
parade ground. Then Mike, Ed and Gary work in the bomb bay
on dismantling the fuselage plugs. David works on the electrical
connections outside the cockpits and Ken and Cliff attack
the port leading edges. Where is Mick? Well, as usual he
flits here and there like the scarlet pimple, videoing everything,
keeping the food up to us and providing someone to have
a go at. Without Kiwi we would have been lost, but Mick
served as "apprentice butt" last year on the N.T. trip and
is now filling in admirably. The morning passes peacefully
under the bomb bay but on the wing, frustration grows as
hours of drilling, bashing etc fail to move the leading
edge. After lunch however, more heroic drilling on the hundred
screws and removal of fuel tank connections brings success.
The only remainder then is a small stub section which yields
after a six foot extension is added to the socket handle.
A good feeling that we are about on schedule despite the
rain. If we can separate one of the fuselage sections tomorrow
we will be comfortable about the booked semi trailers. Readers
of previous chronicles will recall that Ken usually manages
to damage himself along the way. The score so far: Mick:
Back strain - Cured by Dr Cliff. Terminal shortness - no
cure. Mike: Back strain - frightened by Dr Cliff. Cut hand
& abrasions - self doctored. Ken: Back strain, skinned knuckles,
damaged knee, sore foot, cut finger - self doctored. David:
Nothing reported - self administered medication. Ed: Skinned
knuckles - self doctored. Cliff: Old age - no cure.
7 - FRI 01 MAY:
After breakfast we are on the job at 0730 as usual with
Ed feverishly undoing every nut and bolt he can see in the
radar operator's cockpit (and that is only half of the required
number). Dave and Mick are chipping, punching and grinding
various screws on access panels. Mike works on the starboard
leading edge extension and Cliff and Ken attack the 1,000,000
or so screws holding on the starboard leading edge. With
the knowledge of the previous day and the feeling that we
are slipping behind schedule, work pace is increased. The
leading edge is removed by morning smoko. This then exposes
the front face of the wing spar. This is the face that will
be on the semi tray and thankfully it is totally flat. After
smoko the jet pipes are attacked by Mike, Cliff and Ken.
Mick, Dave and Ed continue with their projects. The incomplete
copy of the repair manual does not explain how to remove
the jet pipes but it is clear that being on rails they slide
out forwards or backwards. After EGT sensors are removed,
the crew push forward on the starboard jet pipe. It moves
forward about a metre but hits a bulkhead in the engine
bay. Typical! - if there are two ways of doing something
we will pick the wrong way. With a solid push, the pipe
is removed rearwards. The port jet pipe is then tackled
and only comes out half way. A slightly damaged rail is
the cause and this is overcome with the aid of a precision
piece of timber cut by Ed. After afternoon smoko, Cliff
and Mick journey off to town to ring Brambles to reverse
the order of the semis so that the low loader will arrive
on Wednesday instead of Tuesday. This will give us an extra
day to dismantle the fuselage. We think we will need it!
The day concludes with Mike receiving driving lessons in
Austral and Cliff arriving back at Windsor with a flat battery
due to a slipping fan belt.
8 - SAT 02 MAY:
We really need to see action on the fuselage breaks today.
There are 5 main longeron bolts in the front bulkhead and
162 others. The rear is simple - 4 main and 154 minor. Most
of the minor bolts can't be seen let alone worked on. The
morning is spent as follows: David is inserted in a hole
in the bottom of the jet pipe bay to work on bolts on the
front. The rest work to remove the fuselage fuel tank which
takes all morning. This was hoped to give access to many
of the front bolts, but only leads to another sealed off
bay. An exquisitely catered luncheon of spam sandwiches,
fruit and tea follows. After lunch, as it is very difficult
to get six bodies in a very limited space, Mick and Ed go
off to the hangar to work on dismantling the tailplane.
Meanwhile, back at the bulkheads, the same bodies are inserted
in the same holes and the search for bolts continues. It
becomes obvious that this aeroplane was assembled by double-jointed
Irish leprechauns specially bred for the job, some of them
probably got sealed inside and died there. They certainly
aren't helping with the dismantling! Of course this is the
time for a little gentle rain to begin - not enough to stop
us, just enough to cause delays. Ken's legs are beginning
to show the scars of being folded in peculiar positions
in the front cockpit and our desperation is growing as time
is running out and we seem to be making little progress.
To cap it all, our super saw gives up the ghost. Back for
tea. Mick is a specialist at opening cans and mixing the
contents in a random manner. Tonight it is saveloys with
potato salad followed by dessert of fruit and custard.
9 - SUN 03 MAY:
Desperation day. Can't get parts for saw, can't hire another,
must get it apart! Insert bodies into holes and take out
more bolts if we can find them. Throughout the morning frustration
rises above the wing, while inside quiet dismantling continues
- or have they gone to sleep? By lunchtime (more spam) drastic
decisions have been made. Open the sealed space to provide
access to hidden parts and make new inspection ports in
the outer skin in two places. It is obvious that some skinning
has been finished after assembly. Careful inventory of the
removed bolts means that by the end of the day success is
in sight on the front and rear bulkheads. We won't breathe
easy until they have separated, but it ought to be feasible
tomorrow. Ed and Mike have finished separating the tail
sections. We might just scrape it in. Back to the cabin,
repair the damaged bodies, consume some more compote a la
Hinsbey and collapse.
10 - MON 04 MAY:
What day is this? Another day commences with us re-inserting
various bodies in various orifices to continue removing
the seemingly endless number of bolts. The more we check
the more we find that have been missed and the more we are
amazed that bolts could be put in such inaccessible places.
We continue to remove these bolts at a painfully slow rate.
Some minor surgery is required on the skin of the fuel bay
between the navigator's and radar operator's cockpits and
this is done with some reservations. As lunchtime approaches
we see some signs of progress with all the secondary bolts
on the front bulkhead removed except for those on the cockpit
floor area. Little were we to know that it would take the
combined efforts of Cliff, Ed and Mick to remove five bolts
in four hours. With all this frustration above, Mike was
having similar difficulties with the last longeron bolt
on the starboard side of the forward bomb bay section. A
similar afternoon is experienced by Ken and David when it
is discovered that the crane on Austral will not lift the
Sabre forward fuselage. This will have to be left for the
hire crane to shift tomorrow. As the sun sets, the crew
continue to work by torchlight as today we must have the
forward section ready to come off. Partial success is had
as a gap of 20mm appears at the top of the bulkhead joint.
In total darkness the crew pack up for the day and get ready
to attack the last remaining longeron bolt tomorrow. We
all return to a meal of snags a la Hinsbey and the household
11 - TUE 05 MAY:
Will it all come together? (the plan, not the aeroplane).
We double check the crane arrival time and get back to bashing
at the Gannet longeron bolts. One group works at packing
and wiring small bits into the Sabre sections and at 1000
right on schedule arrives the truck - the WRONG truck! Arrangements
made with Brisbane last Friday reached the driver only this
morning. As he goes off to check on the arrival of the other
semi, the crane arrives. We keep him busy moving heavy lumps
to the parade ground. The other truck turns up - only they
have sent a 5 tonner not a semi! So we tell them both to
come back tomorrow at 1000 and we use the crane to finally
separate the Gannet front fuselage. We have now spent seven
days working on these joint bolts and are heartily sick
of Pommy aeroplanes once again! The afternoon is spent working
on the rear fuselage break and after having to grind off
85% of one of the longeron nuts, at 1730 we finally see
a crack opening at the break. We are not totally in the
clear however as the bottom will not let go. We'll try again
first thing tomorrow. Sufficient unto the day etc etc.
WHATEVER - WED 06 MAY:
We usually go to work through swirls of river mist. Today
it was dense fog all the way up the hill to Scheyville -
shades of Schofields two years ago. A suitable amount of
bashing early in the morning and we have separation of the
fuselage. All is ready. Our drop deck driver returns. The
crane is on time as is the flat deck semi (sent from Brisbane
yesterday afternoon). A frantic day of loading ensues. The
loads are not quite as planned, but the flat deck carries
away the Sabre fuselage sections, 4 Gannet wing sections,
bomb bay doors, one jet pipe, a wrecked rudder and the extreme
rear fuselage of the Gannet. Loaded and gone by 1400. The
Gannet rear fuselage is craned off and the centre section
rotated to the ground. The drop deck is loaded with centre
section, nose section, two Vampire wings, one jet pipe,
one good Gannet rudder and a Dove tailplane which we also
acquired plus boxes of parts of all sorts. The undercarriage
was folded while on the truck and we are able to wave goodbye
at 1700. This leaves us only to clean up for the day. Our
own loading will have to wait until tomorrow. We wend our
way back to the cabin and collapse. The job's done and so
are we. We do this for fun?
13 - THU 07 MAY:
The pressure is off so the crew sleeps in until 0630. The
parade ground is tidied up and Austral and the Mazda are
loaded with miscellaneous components which may even combine
to produce an aeroplane of indeterminate species. A ceremonial
exchange of tools takes about an hour with some unclaimed.
Assorted loose items are stuffed into every available corner
so that nothing has room to rattle. Fish and chips for tea
as Mick has run out of tins.
14 - FRI 08 MAY:
We begin our return to Brisbane. Austral departs at 0730,
twenty minutes ahead of the mighty Mazda and the terrible
Torana with everybody due to meet in Singleton. A good trip
for Austral but not so for the Mazda as it drops back to
three cylinders. A bit of head scratching in Singleton identifies
a bung plug in number four. With a new plug fitted, the
team heads off to Scone to visit Col Pay's facility. After
a very impressive visit, the journey continues to Glen Innes
as the intended destination for the night. This is not to
be as Austral begins to lose power and Armidale is decided
on as an alternate. The problem with Austral proves to be
dirt and water in the fuel as the carburettor is stripped,
cleaned and rebuilt on the kitchen table in the overnight
van. After a hearty meal of KFC and chocolate mousse, the
team bed down in the cramped overnight van.
15 - SAT 09 MAY:
Ready for a new day with Austral repaired (we hope) with
a formation departure to the nearest garage for a bottle
of metho, not for drinking but to add to Austral's fuel
to disperse any water that may still be in the fuel tank.
The nearest garage does not have metho and recommends waiting
until 0830 for the local hardware store to open. We can't
afford the time so we take the risk and press on. Wrong!
Only ten miles down the road Austral begins to lose power
again so it is agreed that the team will split up and meet
again in Tenterfield. Ken and Mike buy the elusive metho
at Glencoe and this has an immediate effect on Austral's
performance, arriving in Tenterfield ten minutes behind
the other team members. After a ten minute conference, the
team decides that Mick and Ed should go ahead to Brisbane
to prepare for the unloading with Austral and the mighty
Mazda following. The crew arrive at Mick Hinsbey's house
(now known as Warehouse Number 5) to unload several smaller
components. At 1500 the crew bid each other farewell with
the question remaining - "What will be the subject of the
5th Annual QAM Magical Mystery Tour"?
With so much time and effort expended on removing the forward
and rear fuselage sections, some readers may be asking:
"Why?". The answer lies in the economic necessity of avoiding
a wide load, as the cost of a police escort from Sydney
to Brisbane would not have been a viable proposition for
us. It is most pleasing to see a new face on the recovery
team. Ed Foster has been a member for four years but has
only recently been exposed to aircraft recovery QAM style.
We hope he will become a regular participant.